The National Book Awards, founded in 1950, are given annually to recognize the year’s highest quality literature written by American authors and published by American publishers. In addition to a prestigious list of awards and recognitions for authors, publishers, and booksellers, one work each year receives the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. This year, that award went to A First Time for Everything, a middle grade book by author and illustrator Dan Santat.
A First Time for Everything is Dan Santat’s graphic memoir that chronicles a life-changing trip to Europe during his awkward middle school years. Praised as both humorous and poignant, this coming-of-age story is relatable, honest, and beautifully illustrated by former Caldecott recipient Santat.
Accepting his award, Santat recognized the short list of finalists: “I’d like to thank everyone at the National Book Award Committee, and especially this year’s judges for selecting such a diverse range of books from young adults to middle grade and picture books and graphic novels, which demonstrate that a wide variety of stories can be worthy of such high praise.” Other finalists included Kenneth M. Cadow’s Gather, Huda Fahmy’s Huda F Cares?, Vashti Harrison’s Big, and Katherine Marsh’s The Lost Year: A Survival Story of the Ukrainian Famine.
Santat also made a heartfelt expression of gratitude to his mother, “who saw her young, insecure child endure the struggles of growing up through the tumultuous years of adolescence, and gently pushed him out the door to show his young innocent mind that despite the awkward and awful experiences we can sometimes experience in life, that the world is immense. And that within that vast world, there’s also great kindness and love.”
A First Time for Everything received starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, School Library Journal, and Publisher’s Weekly, and it was previously named a Junior Library Guild selection. Now, this middle grade graphic memoir can add a National Book Award to its list of honors. Everyone at the Mixed Up Files sends a big CONGRATULATIONS to Dan Santat!